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In Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, Santiago learns a great deal by action. He learns quite a bit about the land and his sheep by being a shepherd and paying attention to the world around him, though he doesn't yet know that he is learning the Universal Language.
After Santiago has spoken to Melchizedek (the King of Salem), he is reminded of the omens his grandfather had mentioned to him. By traveling, watching and paying attention, the world will speak to Santiago to help him find his Personal Legend. Melchizedek notes:
God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left for you.
Through action, Santiago learns how easy it sometimes seems to give up searching for one's Personal Legend. When the boy is robbed, he takes a job working for the crystal merchant. It is his intent to save money, buy sheep and return to his old life. In doing this, he is able to learn about his boss who did give up his Personal Legend and now has regrets. The merchant admits he is afraid to go to Mecca now, as he did not when he was younger...
...it's the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive.
Santiago does not want to have regrets by passing up his chance at achieving his Personal Legend.
Santiago also learns by action that "book learning" is not the way in which he best understands the world or pursues his Personal Legend. He tries to read, but this action does not "speak" to him.
"That's strange," said the boy..."I've tried for two years to read this book, and I never get past these first few pages."
The boy decides that perhaps he could try reading the Englishman's books, while the Englishman will try to read the signs of the desert.
The Englishman said, "I'd better pay more attention to the caravan."
"And I'd better read your books," said the boy.
The boy learns nothing from the books, and the Englishman learns nothing from watching the caravan. He takes back his books and packs them away again in their bag.
"Go back to watching the caravan," [the Englishman] said. "That didn't teach me anything either."
Santiago has a moment of enlightenment:
"Everyone has his or her own way of learning things," [Santiago] said to himself."
Santiago realizes that his path is uniquely his own, as is the case with the course the Englishman follows. This is something the boy learns by action—in this case, trying to read books.
Toward the end of the story, when the soldiers of the desert are ready to kill Santiago if he cannot turn himself into the wind, the boy learns to speak to the desert, the wind—and the sun...that admits that he never knew that man could understand "that all things are one." Santiago believes he can accomplish his goal because he believes...
We are all made by the same hand, and we have the same soul.
The sun sends Santiago to...
Speak to the hand that wrote all...
Love springs from the boy's heart and he prays. He understands...
...that only the hand could perform miracles, transform the sea into a desert...or a man into the wind....The boy reached through to the Soul of the World, and saw that it was a part of the Soul of God. And he saw that the Soul of God was his own soul. And that he, a boy, could perform miracles.
Only by doing, searching and asking—all actions—is the nature of the world made clear to Santiago so that he can turn himself into the wind, which will lead ultimately to his ability to achieve his Personal Legend.
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